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article imageMark Zuckerberg wants 'one billion' people to use virtual reality

By James Walker     Oct 12, 2017 in Technology
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the company wants to get one billion people using virtual reality. Speaking at Facebook's Oculus Connect VR event, Zuckerberg said headsets are "freeing" and let people experience things they'd otherwise miss out on.
Facebook's ambitious goal is meant to indicate its aspirations for growth in the VR market. The company didn't provide a timescale for the achievement. Since Facebook's existing Oculus Rift headset sold only a million units during the summer, convincing one billion people to buy a device will take considerable investment and development.
Zuckerberg addressed this by unveiling the Oculus Go, a wireless version of the Rift that will retail at only $200. It cuts the cord that has troubled existing headsets, potentially making VR more attractive to consumers. The Go is still a long way from reaching store shelves, with Facebook stating availability from sometime next year.
Many Oculus Connect attendees had hoped the developer version of the device, announced in 2016, would be launched during the event. However, Facebook's still preparing the wireless technology and will now ship the "Project Santa Cruz" headsets within the next year. The delay could hinder the company's plans.
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Other forms of virtual and augmented reality are competing for the interest of sceptical consumers. A lot of the industry is focusing on smartphone headsets that can be sold at lower prices and are simpler to setup. Microsoft's also preparing to launch its range of low-cost Windows Mixed Reality devices, available from later this month. Facebook's setbacks with Oculus Go could put the company behind in the VR wars.
Oculus Rift VR in action.
Oculus Rift VR in action.
What's holding VR back?
VR's not just being restrained by cost though. The limitations of the headset form factor and widespread uncertainty over the technology's future have so far prevented it from enjoying widespread appeal. Zuckerberg dismissed concerns about VR being "isolating," stating it's actually "freeing" because of the diversity of experiences it offers.
"Some people say that VR is isolating and anti-social," the BBC reports Zuckerberg said. "I actually think it's the opposite. We all have limits to our reality. Opening up more of those experiences to more of us – that's not isolating, that's freeing."
Nonetheless, there are limits to the "freeing" effect of the technology. Zuckerberg was recently met with a fierce backlash after he went on a tone-deaf virtual reality "tour" of flooded Puerto Rico.
The livestreamed event saw Zuckerberg, represented as a grinning cartoon avatar, high-five colleagues and discuss the "magical" impact of VR while he navigated around 360-degree images of destruction. Zuckerberg later apologised, saying he wanted to demonstrate that VR can "raise awareness" of what's happening around the world.
More about Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Virtual reality, Vr, headsets
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